Presented on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at The Park Church.
In his 1899 essay "Concerning the Jews," Twain states: I am quite sure that (bar one) I have no racial prejudices, and I think I have no color prejudices nor creed prejudices. Indeed, I know it. I can stand any society. All that I care to know is that a man is a human being - that is enough for me; he can't be any worse." Although the writer refused to name the one bias he admits to harboring, abundant evidence in his work suggests that the allusion is to Native Americans, who he referred to in print as "reptiles," "vermin," and "good, fair, desirable subject[s] for extermination." This presentation explores the origin and evolution of Twain's attitudes toward indigenous peoples and probes the reasons underlying his animus.
Kerry Driscoll is Professor of English (emerita) at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, CT. She is the past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America, a member of the editorial board for the Circle's journal, the Mark Twain Annual, and serves on the Board of Trustees at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford. In addition to numerous essays she has published on Twain's work, she is author of Mark Twain among the Indians and Other Indigenous Peoples (University of California Press, 2018), the first book-length study of the author's conflicted attitudes toward, and representations of, Native Americans.